Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk, for the period 6–12 August 2014
This update is for media and the general public.
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russian Federation, 13 August 2014 - The Observer Mission (OM) has reached full operational capacity. This report details the observation at the border crossing points, the opening of Gukovo border crossing point, increased Russian military activity at the border and developments regarding the return of the last five Ukrainian officers to Ukraine.
OM’s arrival, establishment and observation work
On 8 August nine mission members joined the OM and the next day, teams were formed and all new observers received on-site training over the weekend. Since 9 August the OM has been fully operational, observing activities at the Gukovo and Donetsk border crossing points on a 24/7 basis. As of today, the OM has 19 mission members and within the next week, the final phase of OM’s deployment will be completed when four temporary mission members will leave and be replaced by the final four permanent staff.
Cross-border movements common to both border crossing points
The profile of the people crossing the border can be divided as follows:
- Families on foot or travelling by car with a lot of luggage;
- Elderly people with few bags;
- Adults with no luggage or empty cars;
- People wearing military-style dress with or without backpacks.
The profile of the people crossing the border is similar in both directions, the only exception being that elderly people are not crossing back from the Russian Federation to Ukraine.
Observation at the Gukovo border crossing point
Since the Ukrainian army and border guards withdrew from Chervonopartizansk (the name of the border crossing point on the Ukrainian side opposite to Gukovo), the Gukovo border crossing point has reopened and traffic has progressively increased, reaching significant numbers of cross-border movement (including vehicle movement). In the past days, there were between 2,000-3,000 border crossings per day. Two-thirds enter the Russian Federation and one-third exits to Ukraine. However, many people are just crossing for short visits during the day and return in the evening while others are just renewing their migration cards. Therefore the statistics do not give a clear picture of the cross-border movement.
Other observations of interest:
On 6 August Observer Teams observed the visit of a high-ranking delegation of the Russian Federation Investigation Committee, which came to assess the damage sustained from previous shelling and shooting incidents on the territory of the border crossing point.
On 11 August at 23:01, Observer Teams heard a helicopter flying tactically (very low and all lights out) approaching from the north and flying over and around the border crossing point twice before flying back north.
On 12 August Observer Teams observed for the first time in Gukovo border crossing point multiple groups of young people wearing military-style dress and backpacks crossing in both directions.
Throughout the week, detonations and gun fire were heard. These incidents were quickly assessed as not combat related. According to border crossing point authorities, on the first few days after the Gukovo border crossing point reopened, detonations were the result of securing the roads from unexploded ordinances. Explanations on gun fire and mortar occurrences were provided later by people wearing military-style dress crossing from Ukraine into the Russian Federation. According to one of them, there is a “shooting range” nearby which is used to calibrate rifles and mortars.
Observation at the Donetsk border crossing point
At the beginning of last week, activity at the Donetsk border crossing point was higher than in the previous weeks. On average, 5,500 entries/exits were recorded, of which roughly eighty percent were crossing to the Russian Federation. This was a result of the deterioration of the overall situation in eastern Ukraine. Border Guard authorities reported working at full capacity but still long lines of cars and people were reported. In the past few days, with the opening of the Gukovo border crossing point, the number of cross border movements has dropped significantly to less than 3,900 entries/exits.
Throughout the week the Observer Teams observed multiple groups of generally young people (men and women) wearing military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. Observer Teams also observed several ambulance evacuations of wounded supporters of the self-proclaimed republics.
In the past three days the Observer Teams noticed increased military activity in the vicinity of the Donetsk border crossing point: on 9, 10 and 11 August, the Observer Teams observed two armed Mi-24 helicopters flying over and around the border crossing point. Later during the nights, other helicopters were heard flying tactically very close to the border crossing point. During the day, the Observer Teams confirmed that the helicopters did not cross into Ukrainian airspace while flying within visible distance of the border crossing point.
On 11 August at 22:43, Donetsk Observer Teams heard a helicopter flying above and around the Donetsk border crossing point which flew away toward the east and then south. At 23:01 (as indicated above), the Gukovo Observer Teams heard a helicopter flying toward the border crossing point from the north which may indicate that the same helicopter was possibly performing an airborne border patrol between the border crossing points.
Other observations of interest:
On 10 August, during the day and the evening, the Observer Teams heard several heavy detonations identified as departing artillery fire at a distance of approximately 10 kilometres west south-west of the border crossing point.
On 11 August the Observer Teams observed a car harbouring the flag of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” with four men wearing military-style dress crossing into Ukraine.
On 12 August, from 05:15 to 05:30, the Observer Teams heard continuous heavy artillery fire at an approximate distance of 10 kilometres in the west north-west direction. From 07:00 to 07:15, the Observer Teams heard other similar heavy artillery fire at an approximate distance of 10 kilometres north of the border crossing point. In both instances the noise resembled multiple‑launch rocket systems.
The last five Ukrainian servicemen have safely returned to Ukraine
The OM received confirmation that the last five Ukrainian servicemen who crossed into Gukovo border crossing point on 4 August have returned safely to Ukraine.